How to Test for Asbestos With a DIY Testing Kit

asbestos fiber

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 day - 1 wk
  • Yield: Asbestos testing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $60

If you've heard of asbestos, you likely know that it's no longer welcome in your home. Both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognize asbestos as a health hazard and have set strict regulations around it. That's great news for owners of new homes, but what about older homes that potentially still have old asbestos materials? Learning how to test for asbestos and what to do with positive results is the first step toward a healthy home.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a name for a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are heat—and fire—resistant. Because of their nature, they were commonly woven into products like insulation and other building materials. However, asbestos was banned in 1989 due to its direct connection to mesothelioma, a type of cancer.

Before You Begin

If your house was built before the 1980s, there's a good chance that it contains asbestos-ridden building materials. Once you find something you suspect may contain asbestos, testing it is the only way to confirm your suspicion. While you can spend a hefty sum on a professional testing company, an easier and less expensive way to ensure that you and your family stay safe is by using an asbestos testing kit.

How DIY Asbestos Test Kits Work

Generally, asbestos testing kits work in a two-step process:

  1. After purchasing a low-cost kit at a home improvement center or online, you obtain suspected asbestos from an area of your home. The kits will include detailed instructions for collecting and sending samples for testing safely, which should be followed carefully to ensure the process is done properly.
  2. You mail the findings to a laboratory. Sometimes the asbestos testing kit includes both the kit fee and the laboratory fee. Other times, you pay twice: a small fee for the kit, then a larger fee for the lab results. When pricing out asbestos-testing kits, check whether you must pay twice. It also helps to know if a pre-paid mailer is included.

After a few days, the results are sent back to you.

  • Less expensive than calling in an asbestos-testing company

  • You control when and where you want to sample

  • Quick way to check for asbestos

  • Potential for asbestos contamination

  • Self tests aren't always the most accurate due to sampling errors

  • Difficult for inexperienced users to find all sources of asbestos in the home

Why You Might Find Asbestos in Your Home

Whether you're moving into an older home or beginning renovations that require you to remove old materials, testing for asbestos is a good idea. However, identifying asbestos within your home isn't as clear-cut as it may seem at first.

One of the most common occurrences of asbestos in the home is insulation. If you crawl into your attic and see gray, fluffy material, you know that it's definitely not fiberglass insulation. But does it contain asbestos? As it turns out, this suspected asbestos might be harmless blown-in cellulose: insulating pellets made from recycled paper.

However, it could be vermiculite (AKA Zonolite), an insulation material found in attics and walls with a mica-like shine and a gray-brown or silver-gold color that may or may not contain asbestos. Much, but not all, of the vermiculite insulation sold in North America prior to 1990 contained asbestos fibers.

Common Places You Might Find Asbestos

Before asbestos was banned, it was used in a variety of building materials including but not limited to the following:


Asbestos Testing Kits to Try DIY Testing

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spray bottle
  • Respirator with HEPA filters
  • Glasses or goggles
  • Gloves


  • Asbestos Test Kit
  • Disposable coveralls
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Tape
  • Dish soap


How to Test for Asbestos

Follow the steps below to safely and effectively test your home for asbestos.

  1. Wear Protective Gear

    When collecting either solid and friable materials or dust samples, be sure to take precautions to ensure your safety. Wear the following:

    • Disposable coveralls
    • Gloves
    • Safety glasses or goggles
    • Boot covers
    • Respirator equipped with HEPA filters


    Not all protective masks are created equal. Just because you wear a mask, doesn't mean you're protected from asbestos. Make sure you use a tight-fitting mask fitted with new HEPA filters.

  2. Prepare the Area

    Seal off all doorways or windows with plastic sheeting to prevent contaminating other areas. Keep loose asbestos fibers out of the air by mixing one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with cool water in a pint-size spray bottle. Liberally spray down the testing spot where you'll remove your sample.

  3. Collect Solid and Friable Materials

    Materials that are solid or friable (crumbly) are preferred for DIY asbestos testing, as they tend to result in less expensive lab fees. With these materials, you cut out a small sample of the material in question, place it in the provided bag, seal the bag, and then mail the sample in the mailer to the laboratory.

  4. Collect Dust Samples

    If you can't get solid materials, asbestos-testing labs usually will ask you to scoop up as much settled dust as possible to gather one teaspoon full. If you cannot gather that much dust, you should use a damp tissue to wipe the dust and enclose the tissue in a sealable bag.


    Because testing asbestos dust samples requires an electron microscope, the cost is about three times higher than testing solid and friable samples.

  5. Send Samples and Receive Results

    Usually a week or two later, the lab reports back to you whether the material is positive or negative for asbestos. Some kits offer the option of paying an extra fee for rush results. Some labs offer a reduced rate for additional samples.

How to Handle a Positive Asbestos Test

If you receive positive asbestos test results, you're faced with a decision. Just because your home has asbestos materials doesn't mean you have any dire problem to remedy. In fact, if the material isn't damaged and won't be disturbed in the future, such as asbestos insulation in an attic that isn't used, its existence likely has an extremely minimal health risk.

For asbestos materials that do cause concern, your options are to encapsulate them (seal) or have the materials removed by a licensed abatement company. It's not recommended to remove the materials yourself. Where possible, encapsulating the asbestos may be the most cost-effective option.

  • Can a single exposure to asbestos cause health issues?

    Yes, it's possible for any asbestos exposure to result in health issues and any level of exposure should be avoided at all costs. However, most diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma develop as a result of regular asbestos exposure.

  • How big does an asbestos sample need to be for testing?

    Asbestos samples don't have to be big in order to be tested. As long as the sampled material contains asbestos, it can often be as small as a coin. For dust samples, many labs require at least one teaspoon.

  • What are common symptoms of asbestos exposure?

    Asbestos exposure could lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing, a persistent cough, and chest and shoulder pain. If you experience these symptoms without an obvious reason, it's worth testing your home for asbestos.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asbestos - Overview. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

  2. US EPA O. Asbestos ban and phase-out federal register notices.

  3. US EPA O. Protect your family from asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation.